Academy of Ideas

The totalitarian moment: Europe in the ‘30S to ‘50S

August 26, 2016

Podcast: lecture by Bruno Waterfield recorded at the Battle of ideas 2016

Across Europe in the 1930s a battle opened as totalitarians of the right and left sought power over man’s soul. This was not merely an exercise in traditional tyranny or authoritarianism but an attempt to break down informal relationships, to assault sovereignty and independence at the level of the nation and the individual. To destroy those boundaries of freedom that make us human, even to attack the mind itself. In Orwell’s 1984, O’Brien, the sinister party intellectual sets out the totalitarian project. “The real power, the power we have to fight for night and day, is not power over things but over men,” he tells Winston Smith. “Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together in new shapes of your own choosing.”